Sunday, 18 February 2018
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February 2017

This issue our hot topics are Tax-Free Childcare, The Big Pedal and a new 'Separation' hub...

TOO FEW PARENTS AWARE OF NEW Tax-Free Childcare Scheme

Too few Northern Ireland families are aware of a new Tax-Free Childcare scheme which is due to be introduced early this year, says local charity Employers For Childcare. The charity, which is dedicated to providing advice and information for working families, surveyed 6,000 local parents and discovered that only 31 per cent had an awareness of the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme, and of these only 15 per cent said they had a good understanding of how it would work. Although an exact implementation date has yet to be announced, it is expected soon and the charity is concerned that so few parents are aware of the massive changes coming down the track. Chief Executive Marie Marin explained: “Thousands of parents in NI will have to consider the options available to them and make the right decision to make sure they don’t lose out financially.” Both the Childcare Voucher and Tax-Free Childcare schemes will be running in tandem until at least April 2018. At that date, it is expected that Childcare Vouchers will close to new entrants. Marie continued, “The Tax-Free Childcare scheme may be good for some but not for others. We would urge all parents to seek advice from our staff who are experts on the issue, so that they can work out which type of support is better for their individual circumstances.”

A wheely big school challenge

Schools across Northern Ireland are being invited to get involved in The Big Pedal 2017 – a national challenge to get more young people cycling and scooting to school. The Big Pedal, which runs from Monday March 20 to Friday 31, will see pupils, teachers and parents leave their cars at home and get on their bikes and scooters for their journeys to and from school. Powered by national walking and cycling charity Sustrans and funded by the Bicycle Association on behalf of the cycle industry through its Bike Hub scheme, The Big Pedal is the UK’s largest competition of its kind and last year Killylea Primary School, in Co Armagh came second in the whole of the UK. The proportion of children walking and cycling to school has been declining since 1995, with the number being driven to primary school increasing each year. As many as one in four cars on the road during the morning peak are on the school run and children in the UK now lag far behind their peers in other nations for active travel. Ask your child’s school to sign up to The Big Pedal 2017. For more information and free resources visit

New online ‘Separation Hub’ for newly separating parents

The charity for lone parents, Gingerbread has launched a brand new online ‘Separation Hub’, offering advice, information and support to parents going through a separation. The digital resource offers support and guidance on several areas including supporting children, legal issues, safety, money and housing. Dalia Ben-Galim, Director of Policy, Advice and Communications at Gingerbread, said: “Separation can be an overwhelming and stressful time. We know from calls to our helpline, and visits to our website, that many parents are looking for advice and support. Some parents will be looking for reassurance, others simply want to find out practical information. Some will be in particularly challenging circumstances such as abusive relationships and need help quickly and efficiently. The separation hub gathers together information both from Gingerbread and other organisations to help parents navigate this extremely difficult time and ensure that they and their children are supported and protected.” The Separation Hub can be accessed online at

Number Facts

20 The number of years World Book Day will be celebrating on March 2, 2017.

15 million The amount of free £1 book tokens which will be distributed this month. Tokens may be exchanged for one of 10 official new World Book Day 2017 titles by authors including David Walliams, Jacqueline Wilson and Francesca Simon.

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